Rabbi’s Message

We are approaching the Yamim Noraim, Days of Awe.  These days are filled with dread as we approach the year ahead with great fear and trepidation.  What does that mean?  Are any of us really afraid?

The Talmud states “All is in the hands of Heaven except fear of Heaven.”  The Talmud is teaching us that most things in life are beyond our control.  The Almighty controls ‘who shall live and who shall die,’ ‘who shall be rich and who shall be poor.’  The only power that we have is the amount of fear of Heaven we choose to imbue our lives with.

What is fear of Heaven?  Many of us come to G-d with a ‘what can you do for me?’ attitude.  Religion is about what makes us feel good and what we can get out of it.  Fear of Heaven is the recognition that religion is not about ‘what can G-d do for me?’ but ‘what can I do for G-d?’  Religion is not a crutch, it should make us uncomfortable as we ponder tough theological questions and must live with the consequences.

This idea is terrifying – the notion that G-d cares about my actions, words and thoughts and that all of these faculties make an impact!  Fear of Heaven is the decision to embrace spirituality, with all that it entails.  Of course the beauty of Judaism is that our goal is elevate this world, by performing mitzvoth, and transforming the physical and mundane into the spiritual.

Sadly, most of us go through life afraid to fear Heaven.  We’d much prefer not to be bothered with spirituality and serving the Almighty.  We want Him to serve us.  This year, as we approach the Days of Awe, let us begin to ask G-d, ‘what do you want from me?’

I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome two new rabbis into town.   Firstly, welcome to Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Kliel & Dorit Rose and family.  Secondly, welcome to Beth Israel’s Rabbi Will & Sarah Yeamans.  Rabbi Yeamans is a graduate of Ner Israel rabbinical college in Baltimore and Kerem B’Yavneh, a hesder yeshivah in Israel (where they combine learning and army service), as well as having an MBA from Loyola University.

The Yeamans will be heading up our youth and young adult departments.  Following on from the great successes of Alan & Orna, the Yeamans will work with our kids and teens to continue the reputation BI has gained as the youth centre of the Edmonton Jewish community.  In addition, I want to thank Russ and Stephanie at Federation for their vision of investing in the young adult community.  Recently they established a young adult committee, designed to inspire greater involvement and participation of the many unaffiliated young adults in our community. Thanks to a special grant from Federation, the Yeamans will be working as part of this vision, building relationships with young professionals in the community.

On behalf of Rabbanit Batya and the BI family, we wish much hatzlacha to the Roses and the Yeamans and may our community be blessed with a happy and healthy, sweet new year.